Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Charlie Faumuina and Blues pack prepare to go to work against Highlanders

Charlie Faumuina has work on his mind. And labour. The first is the task he and his fellow Blues forwards face against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, the second the one his wife Rachelle is facing regarding the birth of their third child.

Rachelle is due to give birth on Thursday, so Charlie is hopeful the latest addition to the Faumuina family arrives on time or either slightly before or shortly after. He told the Herald he hasn't spoken to coach Tana Umaga in any detail but he is hoping to be given the flexibility to fly south on the day of the game if necessary.

In November, 2014, Faumuina was preparing to play for the All Blacks against Scotland in Edinburgh when Leilani-Grace, a sister for the now 4-year-old Riley, arrived. This time he is much closer to home and hopes to be present if possible.

"I'm sure I could go down on game day and come back on the first flight out of Dunedin in the morning if I have to, but we'll see how it goes," Faumuina said.

The Blues will need all the quality they can get if they are to beat a team who got the better of them at Eden Park four weeks ago in round three.

And while many of Umaga's men were guilty of either throwing the ball away via a daft pass or losing in contact during their scrappy recent win over the Force, it is the pack who need to take a bigger responsibility at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

"It's about doing our job for the whole 80 minutes," Faumuina said. "The Highlanders back themselves as the battlers and go all day and I think that's an attitude we want to take - to try to out-work them this weekend."

One of the qualities of the three leading New Zealand teams the Crusaders, Chiefs and Hurricanes is the way they are playing as a collective, and in particularly their packs. For whatever reason, the Blues haven't managed to find that connectivity this season and what better time than to do it against a Highlanders team one point and one place below them on the table.

In Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jerome Kaino and Akira Ioane they have big and powerful ball runners; the key is in getting more out of them in the hope that the Blues' backline can capitalise.

"One thing we can do this week is keep it simple," Faumuina said. "We have some big boys in this team who can be direct - we must use that to our advantage."

There is potential for midfielder Sonny Bill Williams to make his long-awaited debut after his recovery from a ruptured Achilles - an addition that will add a new attacking and defensive edge when it happens - but definitely out is first-five Ihaia West.

West, who has provided impetus off the reserves bench after relinquishing the No10 jersey to Piers Francis, has an ankle injury which will rule him out for four weeks. Bryn Gatland, who provided cover for the Crusaders for a fortnight, is back at the Blues and could be given a place on the bench.

This is potentially the final match Faumuina will play for the Blues in Dunedin because of his move to French club Toulouse following the Super Rugby season. Some might call it a season of farewell tours, but not the 30-year-old who has played 46 tests.

"I wouldn't say I feel the clock is ticking - I'm just focused on doing everything I can for the Blues. But yes, the move will be exciting when it happens."

- NZ Herald

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